Isabelle Huppert stars as a union rep dealing with the fallout of threatening to expose dodgy dealings in The Sitting Duck

The Sitting Duck
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Isabelle Huppert (also in Sidonie in Japan at this year’s AFFFF) teams up again with Jean-Paul Salomé, the Director of The Godmother (AFFFF, 2021) in The Sitting Duck but this time it’s not a comedy, instead a thriller, which is shockingly based on a true story.

The Sitting Duck

Isabelle Huppert plays Maureen Kearney, a union representative at Areva, a nuclear energy company, whose life is turned upside down when she tries to take information about the French secretly negotiating with the Chinese to build nuclear plants in France to the very top. She fears the loss of thousands of jobs at French companies EDF and Areva if it goes ahead. However, the new boss of Areva, Luc Oursel (Yvan Attal, My Dog Stupid, AFFFF 2020) will not let a union worker, let alone a woman, undo his plans and rebuffs her at every step.


Outgoing Areva boss Anne Lauvergeon (played by Marina Foïs, also in Party of Fools at this year’s AFFFF, Freestyle, AFFFF 2023, Sink or Swim, AFFFF 2019) especially thanks Maureen at her farewell drinks, highlighting the bond the two have as well as her unwillingness to give in to the patriarchy. At those same drinks, the boys club can be heard mocking the women. It’s clear that Maureen’s battles are about to get harder without her female counterpart to support her.


Gilles Hugo (Grégory Gadebois, also in A Great Friend at this year’s AFFFF, Maria into Life, and Final Cut AFFFF 2023, Delicieux, AFFFF 2021) is Maureen Kearney’s musician husband who is looking forward to their retirement. While they may be married, Maureen Kearney doesn’t feel the need to consult him on decisions that see her working longer, such as running for election as union rep again, which will mean retirement is a further 2 years away. She knows the job is going to be difficult under Luc Oursel but she is a very strong woman who is seemingly not afraid of anyone, at least not until she is violently attacked at home.


The chief investigator of Maureen’s case is Mr Brémont (Pierre Deladonchamps, Eiffel, AFFFF 2021, Photo de famille, AFFFF 2019), for whom too many things don’t add up and who doesn’t understand her calm demeanour in recounting what happened.  For him, the lack of DNA evidence or sign of forced entry suggest that Maureen did this to herself for attention. Julie Depret (Alexandra Maria Lara), a junior police officer is brushed off when she questions the investigator’s doubts. As Maureen’s lawyers later say, she isn’t the good victim because the case isn’t easy and she isn’t behaving the way the police would expect a victim to react.


The film has a strong supporting cast with Grégory Gadebois persuasive as the supportive and concerned husband watching his wife’s life crumble around her and Yvan Attal embodies the angry, misogynist Luc Oursel flawlessly. However, the highest credit should be given to Isabelle Huppert, who is extremely impressive in her portrayal of Maureen Kearney and this film is further proof of her incredible versatility in acting roles.

La Syndicaliste/ The Sitting Duck - (c) Guy Ferrandis - Le Bureau Films
(c) Guy Ferrandis – Le Bureau Films

Director, and co-writer of The Sitting Duck, Jean-Paul Salomé, says that when he read “Caroline Michel-Aguirre’s essay La Syndicaliste, I immediately felt the cinematographic potential of this incredible investigation set in the world of nuclear power and politics.” It is with Jean-Paul Salomé and Fadette Drouard’s script that the audience is able to find itself wavering and wondering whether the investigator could be right. Is Maureen really making it up?


The Sitting Duck is a compelling film that will, or should, make you angry at the way in which Maureen was treated by the majority of society: her bosses, politicians, the media, and ultimately the police. It’s a thrilling, and potent battle of a woman to prove she’s been wronged and to try to reclaim her own story.


Matilda Marseillaise was a guest of Alliance Française French Film Festival for The Sitting Duck



We chat to Karine Mauris, Artistic Director of the Alliance Française French Film Festival 2024



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